Where will NASA’s VIPER lunar rover land?

NASA has selected a landing site for its future lunar rover, VIPER. The rover will land in an impact crater at the star’s south pole. From there, it will be able to both explore shaded areas and recharge in the Sun.

It is due to reach the lunar surface in 2023: the VIPER rover (for “Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover”) will be tasked with studying the water resources of the Earth’s natural satellite. NASA, which is developing this rover, gave more details on the future landing zone on September 21, 2021. The VIPER mission will take place at the south pole of the star, more exactly on the western edge of a small impact crater called Nobile.

This is where the robot will have the task of mapping the surface and the subsoil. As NASA explains in its press release, “ the south pole of the Moon is one of the coldest regions of our solar system. No previous mission to the moon’s surface has explored it “. So far, the lunar south pole has been studied using orbiters, such as Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) or Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). Water is known to be present on the surface of the Moon. More recent findings seem to confirm that water appears to be well produced or brought to the star and could even be stored in “cold traps” in the polar regions.

How did this water get to the Moon? Where is she from ? And how was it able to stay in place for billions of years? Is she escaping, and if so where? VIPER’s mission should help to better answer these various questions.

Representation of the Nobile crater. // Source: Nasa

An accessible and scientifically interesting site

The west of the Nobile crater was selected because its terrain seems passable enough for a rover. NASA had to find paths passing through both shaded areas and the Sun. VIPER will be equipped with solar panels to recharge, during its journey which should last 100 days. In total, the trajectory envisaged by the agency should allow VIPER to visit six different sites.

VIPER should survey an area covering 93 km2 during his mission, with an estimated distance traveled between 16 and 24 km. To help characterize the resources of the Nobile crater, the rover will be equipped with sensors and a drill. It will thus be able to collect samples at different depths and then analyze them.

The surroundings are interesting, due to the presence of shaded areas – which means that they must be cold and would therefore be suitable places for the presence of water in ice form. The Nobile crater appears to have formed during a collision between the Moon and a smaller celestial body. It is itself surrounded by other smaller craters, which VIPER could also explore in search of water and other resources.

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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